Phoenix Suns: Positive update on three key players ahead of season opener

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

There were fears the Phoenix Suns would go in to their regular season opener slightly undermanned, with a number of minor injuries causing slight concern across preseason.

Those concerns have now been eased with a positive update on three key rotational players, each of which will take on important roles as the Suns look to kickstart their 2022-23 season.

Cameron Johnson, Cameron Payne and Dario Saric should be right to go for the Phoenix Suns regular season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

The quartet of Cameron Johnson (finger), Cameron Payne (finger), Landry Shamet (hip strain) and Dario Saric (personal reasons) all missed the Suns final two preseason games against the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings.

Speaking to Arizona Sports’ Duane Rankin on Saturday, head coach Monty Williams all but confirmed that Johnson and Payne will be available for the season opener.

"“Cam Payne and Cam Johnson practiced full boar today; we actually played three-quarters today. It was pretty impressive for those guys to jump right in and get after it”, Williams said."

Williams praised his team’s medical staff, with Johnson and Payne making efficient recovers after sustaining similar injuries within five minutes of each other against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"“I didn’t think they’d be able to go through a scrimmage at that level. Those guys did everything…To be able to have those two guys on the floor just increased our rotation for sure."

The news is less positive for Shamet who missed the scrimmage, with his status surely doubtful for the season opener. His absence could lead to more minutes for Damion Lee, while opportunities may present for Josh Okogie and Duane Washington Jr.

There was some uncertainty around Saric after the Croatian made his long-awaited Suns return in the win over the Lakers. However, it’s been revealed that his unavailability came through a genuinely heart-warming reason; the birth of his first child, a son named Niko.

How Williams utilizes Saric will be fascinating to start the season. He was productive against the Lakers, recording 12 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. But the reality is that those minutes were his first and only since the 2021 NBA Finals, so how much can he be relied upon in the early weeks of the regular season?

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Phoenix should have at least 12 of their 14 players available against the Mavericks, with Shamet under a cloud and Jae Crowder away from the team. That should increase to 14 available players if the Suns activate two-way players in Washington and Ish Wainright.